Ernest Vardanean is an independent journalist from Moldova's Transnistria region. According to Europa Libera, he is well known on both banks of the Nistru for his impartial and balanced reporting. He is a regular participant in NGO-sponsored projects designed to bring together people from both parts of Moldova - that controlled by the constitutional authorities and that controlled by the separatists.
A few days ago Mr Vardanean was arrested by the Transnistrian authorities on charges of Espionage and High Treason, without any further explanation being given about his supposed crimes.
Media commentators have offered a couple of possible explanations for the arrest. The first is that Igor Smirnov is feeling insecure in his position as President of the unrecognized Transnistrian entity. Another view is that Smirnov and his Russian sponsors wish to create an incident that would block the possibility of a return to negotiations in the 5+2 format.
Whatever the reason, there seems to be no excuse for the seemingly arbitrary arrest of Vardanean. Transnistria is an illegitimate regime which was itself founded on the basis of rebellion and high treason against constitutional authority. It is impossible to 'spy' or 'commit treason' against armed rebels.
Furthermore, this attempt to bludgeon the independent press into submission, together with the recent ECHR rulings on torture in Transnistrian prisons should give additional cause to the international community to seek a swift end to the Transnistrian entity.